ICEM Urges Restraint, Good Faith Talks to Resolve Freeport Strike

by EM News November 02, 2011
The Geneva-based International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), a global trade union federation representing 20 million industrial workers in 94 countries, sent a delegation to Indonesia from 30 October to 2 November at the request of the PT Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Union, SP KEP SPSI, to investigate the stalemated labour dispute and strike by their mineworkers at the Grasberg mine of Freeport-McMoRan in West Papua.

ICEM Report

The delegation, including leaders of ICEM’s six affiliated trade unions in Indonesia and a representative from Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), met with Indonesian governmental ministries involved in the strike, with the chief Human Resource representatives of PT Freeport Indonesia, and with leaders of PT Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Union, who journeyed to Jakarta to provide a candid assessment of the dispute and the impact that the strike is having on workers’ families.

Management of PT Freeport Indonesia gave a frank overview of the harm the strike is having on the company’s business, and the trade union delegation discussed options and ideas to bring the two sides together to achieve a collective labour agreement.

Firstly, the ICEM delegation is steadfast that this is an industrial dispute involving differences in wages and working conditions and that solutions will only be found at the bargaining table in an atmosphere of good faith and a will to resolve differences. The delegation is highly concerned with the volatile situation that exists on picket lines leading to the mine, and urges restraint by all parties in order to avoid further violence and physical conflict.

The delegation is encouraged that the two sides have shown  a willingness to return to bargaining on Monday, 7 October, and it strongly urges both sides to treat this resumption of talks as a new beginning in order to solve differences. The ICEM delegation has received commitment from the PT Freeport Indonesia Worker’s Union that its leadership team will approach talks in this manner

“We know that the company has now taken the dispute to the industrial court, but resolution there could take months,” said CFMEU Mines and Energy General Vice President Wayne McAndrew. “The best and most successful  agreement is one that is negotiated between the parties directly involved with agreement reached that benefits both sides.

Added Dick Blin, ICEM’s Information and Campaigns Officer, “We’re here to diffuse a labour dispute that is literally a powderkeg. The need by both sides to take ownership of a process that involves dialogue and good faith to resolve this set of talks has never been greater and it must begin on Monday.”